Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati
Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? — Pope Benedict XVI
Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. — Pope Francis
This point is enormous. Is Christianity a killjoy? Doesn’t faith evacuate from life all enjoyment? Doesn’t the spiritual life demand that only otherworldly pleasure be permitted? Dancing, singing, playing, celebrating, feasting, laughing, exploring, living out this-life’s many possible adventures, joys and pleasures — are these not “lower” things of the world that should be understood as merely tolerated concessions for the weak (like me) who are not strong enough to be really spiritual?
19th century British poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, expressed this view of Christianity incisively in a line of his poem, Hymn to Proserpine:
Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath
Jesus the bloodless downer, who siphons life of all vitality.
It is unquestionably true that there is in Christianity always an oscillating tension between the fasting and feasting, laughing and weeping, dancing and sitting in sackcloth, pleasure and suffering, living and dying, heaven and earth. There is a time for everything. But we humans are people of extremes, uncomfortable with the tense middle. So we seem to feel the need to either dis Christ’s Cana festal wine in order to exalt Calvary’s penitential vinegar, or ditch Christ’s Calvary for Cana. We are either Epicurean swines or dour Manicheans, laughing with sinners or crying with saints.
Yet, the truth is found both in Cana and in Calvary, when each is lived virtuously and fully. In each burns the white-hot core of radical holiness. The reconciliation of the war between flesh and spirit is not found in getting rid of the flesh to become pure spirit, but in healing their sinful rift so that both can rejoice in God’s magnificent plan for them to live in harmony. Indeed, the only thing that sets spirit against flesh, temporal against eternal, world against God is sin. Once sin is dealt a death blow in us, the enmity is over and “all things in heaven and on earth” can rejoice together. We are called to taste that conciliation here and now, in this life, even if the fullness of the Party is reserved for the next.
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!” — Hilaire Belloc
I love to say when I teach the meaning of “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), that sacrifice does not mean pain. It simply means living in accord with God’s will in every moment as the only fitting “return,” offered as an act of thanksgiving for all He has done for us. Sometimes that “will” involves pain, sometimes pleasure; sometimes heavenly joys, other times earthly; mostly both. The content of our sacrificial lives is found in “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, any excellence and anything worthy of praise” (Phil 4:8). Marital sex, playing sports, hiking, talking politics, performing music, working, praying, feeding the poor and heroic suffering are all noble sacrifices when done God’s way.
Our daily morning offering includes our prayers, works, joys and sufferings. How often do you think of your joys as a powerful sacrificial offering that makes you a saint and saves the world? Sacrifice is found when, “whatever you do, in word or deed, [you] do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him …. whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10:31). Or think of wonderful Psalm 27:6’s “I shall offer within his tent a sacrifice of joy.”
Over the years as our children have grown, Patti and I have worked mightily to bring into their lives men and women of faith who love life as they seek to be saints, fantastically diverse examples of what it looks like to choose Christ and joie de vivre, the cheerful enjoyment of life. Peeps who are so heavenly minded, they love earthly goods (and so they don’t feel the compulsive need to talk religion all the time — they know God’s world is much bigger than that).
Thanks be to God, we have found so many! I wish I could name them all! Married couples, single folks, widows and widowers, seminarians, priests, Religious. We are grateful in the extreme for all of them, and I tear up as I write just thinking about them.
But I personally am most grateful for the example of my wife herself. She embodies this “tense middle” in a most remarkable way. She keeps song, joy, fun, play, laughter and prayer alive in our God-fearing home. She loves movies, parties, music, dancing, sipping Sazeracs, playing games with our children, screaming for the New Orleans Saints, smoking cigars with me, laughing with friends, being a cheerful giver, ever upbeat — and even in the face of the dour, she retains her joy. How? Well, from my up-close perspective, it’s because she loves Jesus so well, loves us so well, loves others so well, loves life so well. Yep, that’s it, she loves.
Love alone reconciles all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love alone never fails.
If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen. — Pope Benedict XVI
Hava nagila, Hava nagila = Let’s rejoice, Let’s rejoice
Hava nagila v’nismecha = Let us rejoice and be glad
Hava neranana, Hava neranana = Let’s sing, let’s sing
Hava neranena v’nismecha = Let’s sing and be glad
Uri, uri achim = Awake, awake brothers
Uri achim b’lev sameach = Awake brothers with a joyful heart.
OH, AND…..our daughter’s ‘Senior Cheer’ on the last day of school last week, announcing their class is now the Senior class…